A Film Review By Michael Haley
|Rating:R for strong violence and gore, a little nudity and some cussing.
Starring: A.J. Cook, Ali Larter, Michael Landes, James Kirk (not Captain Kirk, sorry folks), Keegan Connor Tracey.
Directed By:David R. Ellis
I honestly don’t know what to make of Final Destination 2. On one hand, it’s pretty much the same template as the first movie with a few changes, such as a new cast to kill, and, well, I guess that’s the only big change. And more elaborate, gorier deaths, but you probably figured that was coming anyway thanks to the rule from Scream 2 that states “The death scenes are always much more elaborate.” The acting on the whole is pretty substandard, and the script at times dips into cheesiness. But on the other hand, I enjoyed it and although no real “deep” content exists in the film, it got me thinking about life and existence nevertheless. On a certain level it’s fun and on another it’s cheesy but another it’s terrifying…how should I approach this? Start chucking balls and hope that one of them hits.
It’s been a year since the flight of 180, the airplane that was meant to blow up in the first movie (and when its survivors started dying, so did the actors’ real life careers). Kim (A.J. Cook) is going off with her friends in a pretty cool looking SUV when she gets a premonition ala Devon Sawa’s a year earlier (and a very long premonition at that) where they all die along with others in a severe pile up on the interstate. She manages to save some of the people with her blathering (“There’s going to be an accident!!”) but not certain others. Than the film proceeds more or less like the first movie, where death and its precious design start picking off the survivors in a certain order, which at times makes sense and others does not.
Ya gotta admit, the plot is a pretty fascinating concept, and they proved that it could make a decent (not great, but decent) movie back in 2000. And here it isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not only been done before, but done in pretty much the same fashion as well. The major exception is the gore factor of the death sequences. Now just about everyone who saw the first one will of course remember Amanda Detmer being smacked to holy hell by the bus, or Sean William Scott getting his head cut off near the train. Those were the most grisly deaths in the film, which used gore as necessary but didn’t overly rely on it…in fact, the sudden gore came just as that, sudden. Here, it’s sudden for awhile, but before long every death becomes a challenge to see if the previous can be outdone in grossness. One of the death scenes is so elaborate and crazy, involving computers, watches, the garbage disposal, a fire, and finally a fire escape, that his predicament and eventual death is amusing and not deathly serious as I would imagine it was intended (or maybe not, this is a Hollywood picture). However, most of the other deaths come from nowhere and are flat out cheap, such as someone who happens to walk out underneath a huge plate of glass, someone who gets killed by their airbag, and a convenient gas leak. The first movie at least built some suspense as to how and when someone would die—this time around, it looks like something else will happen and then “bam” someone’s dead.
That got me thinking…if death really was to go through all the trouble he does in his “design,” than why does he have such an ironic sense of humor? Wouldn’t it be easier just to give them all a stroke or something? Instead, he (or she or it for that matter) possesses the ability to sever gas lines, give premonitions to the main character just to toy with her, and so on…if he really wanted everyone who was supposed to have died dead, than give them all a heart attack at once. His “rift” would be fixed, and there wouldn’t a problem.
Of course, that begs the question of death, or fate as it’s sometimes called, and is it merely a for God. The first film alludes to this, the second doesn’t even bother trying, but I still thought about it during the movie. Is the controlling force of fate really the hand of God? It certainly appears so, as death has such elaborate designs and ways of killing people. But why does death only kill teenagers (with a few adults spread through both films to even it out)? Are the films alluding to the death of the young, brave and bold? Are they saying that you no matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished, that death will ultimately claim you in the end (not exactly a novel thought)? Is there an answer to death’s plans, or are all we hopeless at the hands of fate or God for that matter? Or, are the filmmakers saying, “This would be a really f*cked up way to kill her!!”? Although I know the latter is probably more correct, the prior issues raised directly by the first film and implicitly by the second give the film more weight, at least in my experience, than it deserves.
However, there is one standout scene in the sequel that is so well done that it’s scary (literally), and that is the opening premonition sequence where Kim “sees” the pile up that claims the lives of her and her friends. The shots of the interstate and its inhabitants are slow and labored, but manage to catch almost everyone on the interstate and set up the story with as few words as possible. The highway is normal looking and the day is brightly sunny…no ominous clouds, no thrilling music on the soundtrack, and some of the cast members are doing things like smoking pot that don’t exactly foreshadow mass tragedy. Yet even so, the atmosphere is thick with dread, a feat accomplished very well by the actors and crew (although the trailer helps a bit), and when the pile up does happen, the collisions and trauma was so well done that I didn’t shiver in the seat because of the “scariness” of it but the sheer tragedy on the screen…the sound f/x and images deliver hard, powerful moments in this first scenes, and is enough of a means by itself to make one question his own mortality and the ease at which he can die. The rest of the movie tends to try to shock us more and more with every death, but for me, the pile up stands out as the most effective of the film (not the grisliest, but most effective overall).
There are elements that I didn’t mention that are simply ridiculous (the number of things that blow up in this movie, and how easily and high they blow), the way that death’s design doesn’t always play by the rules established by the film, and the possible method to cheat death, whatever it may be, is downright ludicrous. Even so, I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t come anywhere near the brilliance of the original, which wasn’t brilliant but rather bright, but I’m recommending it anyhow. Lest you all be warned, the film definitely isn’t for the faint hearted or squeamish, and won’t initiate any discussion into discussion of life and mortality unless the viewer is already interested in such matters.